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Those foreign drinks!

July 2017

older people drinking in the sun

One of the exciting reasons we go on holiday is to try new food...and new drinks!

One of the most famous drinks from abroad is the ubiquitous Spanish drink sangria, now often found at parties in the UK. For the uninitiated, it is made with red wine, oranges, lemon, sugar and cinnamon and tastes delicious. Best obviously in warmer weather, liberally mixed with ice.

But for a more traditional Spanish drink, it might be worth trying Rebujito. Really popular in the Andalusian region, it is made with white sherry (again a very Spanish drink) simply mixed with lemonade. Usually served in a big jug and very easy to look out in the heat of the day!!!
In fact the strength of alcohol in the sun can be underestimated. Some tourists have become unstuck on the Spanish Rema de Orujo. Orujos are types of grape brandy and are often served to aid digestion after a meal. You can also get a crema de orujo, which is creamy like a Baileys, very delicious but with a strong kick. Be warned!

Actually the Spanish use the idea of helping digestion as a common reason for having a little drinky! Their Patxaran is also very popular as an after meal drink, originating in northern Spain where it has been known since at least the middle ages. It is made by soaking sloe berries with a few coffee beans and vanilla pods in anisette. You can make it at home too of course but with an alcohol content of up to 30% it needs to be treated with caution.

Italy is famous for its wines, vermouths and more recently the wonderful prosecco.  Campari, a very Italian red herbal liqueur, is like Marmite; either loved or hated, and has been popular in the UK for decades. Limoncello, a lovely lemon liqueur is now also popular over here.

Less well know is Aperol...made from bitter orange, gentian, vanilla and rhubarb. In fact there are more than 30 ingredients and it tastes 100 per cent better than it sounds...less bitter and less alcohol than in the strong Campari. Often mixed with soda water, it makes an excellent day time drink in the sun.

Grappa is another drink many visitors to Italy will come across and is often ignored because people don’t really know what it is. Yet over 40 million bottles of grappa are produced every year so the Italians certainly appreciate it. It is often made by winemakers as it is made from the grape skins, seeds and stalks that are left over from winemaking. These are taken through a second process of distillation to extract the remaining flavours before the waste is discarded. Then it is bottled and sometimes flavours including almond, blueberry and honey. In Italy, grappa is often served straight from the fridge after a meal or added to coffee.

In Greece, there is one drink that really stands out as a symbol of the country and that is ouzo. Like grappa, it is made from the by-products of grapes after they have been used for wine making…these Mediterranean folk certainly know how to avoid wasting any part of their precious grapes.  The by-products are distilled into a high proof alcoholic drink that is mainly flavoured with anise giving it a very distinctive liquorice flavour.  This is the basis of ouzo and then other herbs and spices are added so that there are many different types of ouzo with subtly different tastes.

Traditionally in Greece ouzo is drunk in late afternoon or early evening, accompanies by small plates of food.  It is drunk cold, possibly with one or two ice cubes or a splash of cold water which turns the drink cloudy. It is meant to be sipped while you chat among friends, not knocked back as a quick pre-dinner drink!

Retsina is another drink that is unique to Greece. It is based on white wine or rose, but then mixed with various additives including pine resin. This sounds odd and certainly tastes unlike drinks you experience elsewhere. But if you acquire a taste for this, then you will be joining millions of Greeks who have enjoyed retsina for literally thousands of years!

Many countries have their own traditional drinks and it is well worth a little investigation before you leave on your holiday. Turning local might introduce you to some new beverages that might help to make your holiday really memorable!

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